Post-religious, post-civic humanity: the consumer and the factor of production

"the division remains, but each of the souls two commitments being hampered in its manifestation and soon drained of its vitality, is hardly recognizable and observers can think that the division introduced by religion belongs to the past. Is important to note that the modern State represses almost equally the two divergent movements of the soul: not only does it severely circumscribe the public expression of religious convictions and affects -- religion is henceforth essentially a private thing -- but it makes in his organized to make the 'ancient freedom,' that is, the direct expression of civic commitments, impossible: citizens can act only through their representatives. The modern state bus rests on the repression, in any case the frustration, of the two most powerful human affects: on the one hand the passionate interest in this world is expressed in active participation in the common thing, and on the other the passionate interest in eternal and infinite as expressed in the postulation of another world and participation in a community of faith." -- Pierre Manent, Metamorphoses of the City, p. 217

The two things that have made human life most worth living throughout most of our history have been participation in the civic and spiritual life of one's community. A community where these things are absent is a mutilated community, and its members mutilated human beings. The social functions remaining to the human being are those of the consumer and the factor of production: he is an input/output pipe in a flow of material goods and money.

This explains why despite the "evidence" that everything is getting better, there is a widespread sense of malaise, and why this idea of continual improvement is being sold so hard: we need to keep a population of people alienated from themselves, their communities, their government, and the realm of the spirit working hard to produce "growth": thus, we tell them "Ignore those gaping holes in your soul, because, look, you can buy an 85-inch plasma-screen TV, infant mortality rates are dropping, and you now have a life expectancy of 80 empty, purposeless years to look forward to."


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